342 JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN LETTER sxsn and partly crossing high steep promontories which jut out into the lake. A few villages, where strips of level ground and water for irrigation can be obtained, are passed, and among them the village of Vastan, the " Seat of Government" for the district, and a Turkish telegraph station, but in the eleventh century the residence of the Armenian royal family of Ardzrauni. Art aids nature, and there are grand old monasteries on promontories, and Kurdish castles on heights, and flashing streams and booming torrents are bridged by picturesque pointed arches. There are 150 monasteries in this region, and the towers of St. George at the mountain village of Narek, high on a rocky spur above one of the most beautiful of the many wooded valleys which descend upon the lake of Van, lend an air of medieval romance to a scene as fair as nature can make it. Nearly all the romantic valleys opening on the lake are adorned with one or more -villages, with houses tier above tier in their rocky clefts, and terrace below terrace of exquisite cultivation below, of the vivid velvety green of winter wheat. These terraces often "hang" above green sward and noble walnut trees. Occasionally the villages are built at the feet of the mountains, on small plateaux above steep-sided bays, and are embosomed in trees glowing with colour, from canary-yellow to crimson and madder-red, and mountains, snow-crested and forest- skirted tower over all. Lake Van, bluer than the blue heavens, with its huge volcanic heightsSipan Dagh, Nimrud Dagh, and Varak Dagh, and their outlying rangesits deep green bays and quiet wooded inlets; its islets, some like the Bass Rock, others monastery- covered ; its pure green shadows and violet depths; its heavy boats with their V-shaped sails; and its auburn oak-covered slopes, adds its own enchantment, and all is as fair as fair can be.